The Car Connection BMW X1 Overview
The BMW X1 is a small luxury crossover SUV that serves as the basis for the X2.
Introduced in 2012 as a rear-wheel-drive-based luxury crossover, the X1 is now in its second generation. This time it rides on a front-drive architecture borrowed from Mini, which makes it the first front-wheel-drive BMW. Both front- and all-wheel drive are available.
For 2019, it added standard low-speed automatic emergency braking and one year of Apple CarPlay compatibility to every model. In 2020, BMW revamped the X1's styling and boosted the size of its touchscreen to 8.8 inches. Changes for 2021 were limited to paint colors, and in 2022 only to lighting and exterior trim packages.
MORE: Read our 2022 BMW X1 review
Rivals for the X1 include the Audi Q3, Acura RDX, Lexus UX, and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. It even competes against the showroom against the X2.
The new BMW X1
Redesigned for 2016, BMW finally has a subcompact SUV with usable interior space in the second-generation X1. It also features a more efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and in 2017 a front-wheel drive model was added to complement the AWD model.
The new X1 looks a bit more like a utility vehicle than the previous version. The new vehicle is almost two inches taller, and an extra inch of width and a 2-inch-wider track give the X1 a more rugged stance, but it manages to avoid typical macho tones.
Only one powertrain is offered. It's a 228-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and three drive modes. BMW says it will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and the EPA quotes a highway fuel economy rating of 32 mpg with front-wheel drive.
The X1 has gutsy power, quick steering, and fairly agile handling, but it doesn't feel special like a traditional rear-drive BMW.
There's plenty of room for four adults, with ample head room all around and good leg room, especially with an optional reclining/sliding rear seat that has 5 inches of travel. The front seats are not impressive, though, lacking shape or support. Behind the rear seat, there is 27.1 cubic feet of cargo space; that expands to 58.7 cubic feet with the rear seat down. Those figures are good for the class.
The feds haven't yet tested the X1, but the IIHS gave the car "Good" ratings in all crash tests and an "Advanced" rating for its forward collision prevention system. A rearview camera was made standard for 2018. Other available safety features include lane departure warning, forward collision warnings, pedestrian detection with low speed braking, automatic high beams, front and rear obstacle detection, and a self parking system.
As an entry-level luxury vehicle, the X1 has a decent standard feature set, but the standard upholstery is synthetic leather. Buyers will want to option up the X1 with such features as leather upholstery, navigation, premium audio, and an M Sport package with sport-tuned transmission and suspension, sport seats, and a body kit. Be careful, though, as prices rise quickly.
While the larger X3 and X5 crossovers (as well as their X4 and X6 cousins) are built at the BMW plant in South Carolina, the X1 is imported from the company's Leipzig plant in Germany.
BMW X1 history
The X1 had been on sale for three years in other markets by the time it arrived in the U.S. late in 2012. Based on the previous-generation 3-Series wagon (of the time), the X1 borrowed the xDrive all-wheel-drive system from that car as well.
The first X1 bore a strong resemblance to the bigger X3, but the overall look was tauter and the vehicle was noticeably more compact. Inside, the front seats and the overall cockpit design were tailored to provide a good driving position.
The U.S. was the only market to get a 6-cylinder in addition to the 4-cylinder X1. Rear-wheel drive was standard on the 4-cylinder model, while the inline-6 was all-wheel-drive only. All configurations used an 8-speed automatic transmission. The rear-drive sDrive28i and all-wheel-drive xDrive28i were propelled by a 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, while the pricier xDrive35i used a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6. BMW fitted the X1 with technology aimed at improving fuel economy—both an engine start-stop function and brake-energy regeneration.
There were very few changes to the X1 since its introduction. More of a special edition, the 2013 Powder Ride Edition offered integrated overhead ski storage and special exterior graphics, among other dress-ups.